New Delhi, Aug. 22: The Congress believes the BJP’s ploy to block the food security bill and Speaker Meira Kumar’s reluctance to take tough measures have stretched the Lok Sabha paralysis even as the Rajya Sabha carried on despite protests on similar issues.
The government was today forced to bring a resolution to suspend 11 members — seven from the Congress and four from the Telugu Desam — after Kumar refused to name them for holding the House to ransom for such a long time.
Sources said the Speaker cited “strong opposition” to the suspension when parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath tried to impress her about the need for order to complete urgent legislative business.
The Speaker’s initiative would have spared the government the pain of evolving a consensus on the suspension move. The Desam members have disrupted proceedings over Telangana since the monsoon session started on August 5.
The Rajya Sabha has seen unseemly controversies over chairman Hamid Ansari’s decision to name errant MPs and describe members as “anarchists”, but business has continued. This has happened despite the Rajya Sabha witnessing protests over all issues agitating the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Asked why Speaker Kumar has not shown similar resolve to run the House unhindered, a senior Congress leader said: “Ask her.”
He claimed it was on her instructions that the Lok Sabha had been adjourned by Girija Vyas — in the chair then — when the government planned to push the food bill amid din in the last leg of the budget session.
Today, the government was not happy with the Chair’s decision to adjourn the House for the day when the BJP opposed the suspension move.
Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit, also the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, contested suggestions the government wanted to escape the embarrassment of being defeated in a vote on the resolution. “There was no question of vote as the decision to suspend the MPs was taken after reaching a broad consensus.”
Dikshit claimed all parties knew about the plan but when the decision was announced, “some changed their stance”.
A senior government functionary claimed “a deal was struck this morning that the Prime Minister will intervene in the debate on missing coal files, as demanded by the BJP, and the government will suspend the trouble-making MPs”.
“The BJP said it will walk out as it cannot support suspensions. There is something called trust but the BJP betrayed the government,” the functionary said.
Dikshit accused the BJP of being bent on “finding some excuse or the other” to stall Parliament. “This is a plot to block the food bill. The only reason is the food bill. The Rajya Sabha is functioning because the food bill is in the Lok Sabha. This reflects the intention of the BJP to thwart India’s development.” Now it is up to Kumar to take the final decision on the suspension and ensure the House runs smoothly.
If that doesn’t happen, the Centre will have to forego discussions and pass the bill in the din. Several important bills, including budgets, have been passed earlier without discussions. If all fails, the government has the option of re-promulgating the food ordinance for another six months.